Can Prima Facie be defined objectively?

Investigation of crime is a specialised job requiring some skillsets and above all the knowledge of the law. An investigation will be a useless exercise if the investigator is not aware of the provisions of the Evidence Act and which will eventually make the prosecution’s case difficult. Also, expert investigators with specialised knowledge of the law would also be helpful in evaluating the prima facie evidence which is the basis of arresting any accused merely on suspicion. But is this the case?

In most matters, the arrest is based on some prima facie evidence to justify the arrest. Looking at the recent spate of cases where the investigation by the police or other competent agencies is under serious question, it is very evident that we need a foolproof system that will not allow the violation of a person’s liberty, wrongfully or without legal justification.

The most serious is the arrest of a suspect or offender without any prima facie evidence or where the investigator feels that the evidence is enough for arrest. However, what needs stressing is what can be prima facie itself cannot be defined. But it is high time strict guidelines are framed to define any evidence as prima facie and which can be sufficient cause of action for arrest under different laws providing for arrest.

A person’s liberty under the Indian constitution is much valued and everything else matters less. Article 21 & 22 comes in valiant defense of wrongful detention or arrest.
The Black’s law dictionary defines prima facie as ‘At first sight; on first appearance but subject to further evidence or information.

Deciding what is prima facie needs to be objective. With the law being a social science there is always the danger of the essence of a thing mired in a jugglery of words. Therefore, some practical guidelines specific for different laws and in the context of the applicable statute are the need of the hour.

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